Monday, 27 August 2018

China Has Withheld Samples of a Dangerous

Dangerous Flu Virus

China Has Withheld Samples of a Dangerous Flu Virus

For over a year, the Chinese government has withheld lab samples of a rapidly evolving influenza virus from us — specimens needed to develop vaccines and treatments, consistent with federal health officials.

Despite persistent requests from officialdom and research institutions, China has not provided samples of the damaging virus, a kind of bird flu called H7N9.

In the past, such exchanges are mostly routine under rules established by the planet Health Organization.

Now, because of we and China spar over trade, some scientists worry that the vital exchange of medical supplies and knowledge could slow, hampering preparedness for the next biological threat.

The scenario is “unlike shortages in aluminum and soybeans,” said Dr. Michael Callahan, a communicable disease specialist at Harvard school of medicine.

“Jeopardizing U.S. access to foreign pathogens and therapies to counter them undermines our nation’s ability to guard against infections which may spread globally within days.”

Experts concur that the world’s next global pandemic will likely come from a repeat offender: the flu. The H7N9 virus is one candidate.

Since taking root in China in 2013, the virus has spread through poultry farms, evolving into a highly pathogenic strain that will infect humans. it's killed 40 percent of its victims.

If this strain were to become highly contagious among humans, seasonal flu vaccines would provide little to no protection. Americans have virtually no immunity.

“Pandemic influenza spreads faster than anything,” said Rick A. Bright, the director of Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, workplace within the Department of Health and Human Services that oversees vaccine development.

“There’s nothing to carry it back or slow it down. Every minute counts.”

Under an agreement established by the planet Health The organization, participating countries must transfer influenza samples with pandemic potential to designated research centers “in a timely manner.”

That process — involving paperwork, approval through several agencies and a licensed carrier — normally takes several months, consistent with Dr. Larry Kerr, the director of pandemics and emerging threats at the Department of Health and Human Services.

But quite one year after a devastating wave of H7N9 infections in Asia — 766 cases were reported, most in China — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still expecting several viral samples, the National Security Council and therefore the W.H.O. confirmed.

Scientists at the Department of Agriculture have had such difficulty obtaining flu samples from China that they need to be stopped requesting them altogether, consistent with a government official who spoke anonymously because of he wasn't authorized to debate the matter.

At least four research institutions have relied upon the little group of H7N9 samples from cases in Taiwan and Hong Kong. (All four asked to not be identified for fear of further straining ties.)

The Chinese embassy in Washington didn't answer multiple requests for comment.

The Chinese Center For Disease Control and Prevention also didn't reply to inquiries regarding the transfer.

When the H7N9 virus first appeared in China, researchers say the Chinese government at first provided timely information. But communication has gradually worsened.

Yet a sudden spike in infections during 2016-2017 outbreak wave demands intense the research said scientists getting to understand the virus’s evolution.

Recent trade tensions could worsen the matter.

The Office of us Trade Representative in April released the proposed list of products to be targeted for tariffs — including pharmaceutical products like vaccines, medicines, and medical devices.

So far, none of these medical products have landed on the ultimate tariff lists.

But lower-level trade negotiations with China concluded on Thursday with few signs of progress, increasing the likelihood of additional tariffs.

Us relies on China not just for H7N9 influenza samples except for medical supplies, like plastic drip mechanisms for intravenous saline, also as ingredients for certain oncology and anesthesia drugs.

a number of these are delivered through a just-in-time production model; there are not any stockpiles, which could prove dangerous if the supply was disrupted, health officials said.

Scientists believe top commerce officials in both governments view the viral samples much like the other laboratory product, and perhaps unacquainted their vital role in global security.

“Countries don’t own their viral samples any longer than they own the birds in their skies,” said Andrew C. Weber, who oversaw the biological defense programs at the Pentagon during the Obama administration.

“Given that this flu virus may be a potential threat to humanity, not sharing it immediately with the global network of W.H.O. laboratories like C.D.C. is scandalous.

Many could die needlessly if China denies international access to samples.”

For over a decade, epidemiological data and samples are used as trade war pawns.

China hid the 2002 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, for four months then kept the findings of its research private.

Some provinces withheld information about cases even from the central government in Beijing.

In 2005, Chinese authorities insisted H5N1 influenza the outbreak was contained, contradicting the University of Hong Kong scientists who offered evidence that it had been expanding.

Those authorities hesitated to share viral samples from infected wild birds with the international community, concealing the scope to avoid success in their vast poultry industry.

Indonesia followed suit, refusing in 2007 to share specimens of H5N1 with the United States and therefore the UK, arguing that the countries would use the samples to develop a vaccine that Indonesians couldn't afford.

Those episodes led to the 2011 development of the W.H.O.’s Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework, which aims to market sample exchanges also as developing countries’ access to vaccines.

But for countries like China, bearing the burden of the completely unique virus is paradoxical.

Outbreaks are expensive — the wave of H7N9 infections in 2013 alone cost China more than $6 billion, consistent with the United Nations — but they will provide a head-start in developing valuable treatments.

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